What started as an argument over a parking space in South Beach ended with a police chase and two dead men, including one shot and killed by Miami Beach police, marking a harsh turn for the Memorial Day weekend that in recent years has been relatively low-key.
On Monday evening, police identified one of the suspects as 19-year-old Jeffery Alexander from Brooklyn, who was accused of killing 30-year-old Ladarian Tyrell Phillips of Homestead. Alexander has been charged with second-degree murder with a deadly weapon and second-degree attempted murder with a deadly weapon/firearm.
The initial altercation began around 10:35 p.m. Sunday at Second Street and Ocean Drive. Police say Alexander and three friends were trying to parallel park a white BMW with a New York tag along the northbound curb of Ocean Drive. Alexander was in the passenger seat. After the first attempt to park the car, the driver hit a gold Buick Regal parked on Ocean Drive. The driver inched forward and tried to park the BMW again, striking the vehicle “a couple more times,” according to Alexander’s arrest affidavit.
When the BMW couldn’t fit into the parking space, the driver “began force pushing the Buick back in an attempt to move the Buick,’’ according to the affidavit.
That’s when Phillips and a friend walked across Ocean Drive and asked the BMW driver how many times he was going to hit his car.
An argument ensued. As Alexander, who was standing outside the car guiding the driver, headed back to the car, the unidentified driver yelled “step the f--- back” to Phillips and his friend. The driver then passed a handgun to Alexander, now sitting in the front passenger seat, the affidavit says.
Alexander fired two to three shots, according to police, striking Phillips in the back and his friend in the leg. Phillips died Monday morning at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His friend was treated and released.
The BMW took off. Police, arriving on the scene about a minute later, caught up with the BMW at Alton Road and Second Street, heading north.
Sunday night’s incident began just after 10:30 p.m. in the 200 block of Ocean Drive.
A chase ensued, resulting in a crash at Fifth Street and Alton Road, damaging two police cars and the BMW. The BMW drove one block to Sixth and Alton, where two Miami Beach police officers opened fire. Police hit one of the BMW occupants, whom police did not identify. The victim was transported by Miami Beach Fire Rescue to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he died on Monday.
On Alton, Miami Beach police detained two of the BMW’s passengers. A third fled but was picked up by police about an hour later.
Alexander, the Brooklyn man charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder, was slated to perform at a Miami Beach club called Miami LIVE off Northeast 71st Street on Saturday, according to an Instagram post. He goes by the name 22GZ.
Monday morning, Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates said the two Miami Beach police officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, as per department policy. He said police recovered a gun during their investigation, and have been searching the area to see if any other weapons were dropped. Police did not identify the type of weapon found.
Miami-Dade police impounded the BMW. A search warrant for the car is pending.
Miami Beach police are investigating the shooting death of Phillips on Ocean Drive. In accordance with a 2-year-old city policy, Miami-Dade police are investigating the officer-involved shooting of the person in the BMW.
Police have not released the name of the person shot and killed by police. In addition, police have not identified the three other people in the BMW nor have police identified the two officers involved in the shooting.
One resident in a nearby condo tower filmed a video in which eight gunshots can be heard. A helicopter remained over South Beach for a few hours while police blocked off part of Alton Road and closed eastbound traffic on the MacArthur Causeway. Monday morning, traffic returned to normal.
Obviously we view this as a tragedy and an extraordinarily unfortunate event.
Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates
The shooting happened at the end of a relaxed Sunday in the oceanside city, where beachgoers watched an Air and Sea Show, partygoers enjoyed Urban Beach Week festivities and everyone endured record-breaking temperatures. City leaders had hoped to have a Memorial Day weekend relatively free of violence after several years of declining arrests and fewer negative headlines.
“Obviously we view this as a tragedy and an extraordinarily unfortunate event,” Oates said. “City leaders and the police department will be evaluating everything that occurred here.’’
Commissioners Ricky Arriola and Michael Grieco spoke to reporters at Miami Beach police headquarters Monday morning. Arriola thanked the emergency personnel who responded to the shootings. Grieco said the incident disappointed him greatly, and he said he plans to introduce legislation that will limit nightlife during Memorial Day weekend.
“There is a commitment to never allow this to happen again,” he said, adding that he wants to look at possibly rolling back the time for bar and nightclub closures.
He blasted Urban Beach Week, a loosely affiliated set of parties and hip-hop concerts that brings thousands of visitors to Miami Beach each Memorial Day weekend. Grieco, who lives two blocks from the site of the shooting, said the Urban Beach Week is “a thing of the past” and will no longer be tolerated.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said in a press release Monday night that he will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday to “address recent weekend incidents and remarks made that portray the City negatively.”
The release also said the mayor “will announce new measures aimed at taking decisive and proactive steps to bring stability to the Ocean Drive corridor.’’
Police did not comment on whether the four suspects were in Miami Beach specifically to attend events related to Urban Beach Week.
Urban Beach Week brings many youths to the beach, though the crowd-control issues associated with the weekend are not unlike other popular events in the city. Large crowds generate traffic, drunken revelry and huge police presence in the entertainment district, whether it be Memorial Day weekend or other busy days during the Spring Break season.
Things turned deadly during the 2011 Memorial Day weekend, when a dozen officers fired more than 100 rounds at a car barreling down Collins Avenue, killing the driver, Raymond Herisse, and wounding four bystanders. A state attorney’s investigation later found the 12 officers were justified in their use of force, but in March 2016, the police departments from Miami Beach and Hialeah reached settlements with Herisse’s family and three of the four bystanders after civil lawsuits.
That incident triggered a change in policy for Beach cops, who can no longer treat a moving vehicle as a deadly weapon. Unless someone inside the car displays a weapon or fires first, Miami Beach cops cannot shoot into a moving vehicle.
Echoes of the fallout from that incident six years ago could be heard Monday morning, where elected officials and city administrators looked crestfallen after the shootings. They were particularly disappointed after a well-attended Air and Sea Show drew many families to the Beach Saturday and Sunday for a display of military aircraft and sea vessels — a deliberate attempt to provide a family-friendly activity and shift the focus of Memorial Day weekend from partying to remembrance. All the while, just across the sand dunes and Lummus Park, Urban Beach Week parties went on relatively incident-free.
63 arrests were reported by Miami Beach police prior to Sunday night’s shootings. Arrests totals have steadily declined in recent years.
Grieco said many visitors come to the Beach to simply have a good time, but “a handful of bad apples” ruin the party. He said he wants to end bad behavior during this holiday weekend each year.
“This is not a black-or-white issue” he said. “This is a right-or-wrong issue.”